18Finally, the Lord told Joshua, “Point your sword at the town of Ai, because now I am going to help you defeat it!”
As soon as Joshua pointed his sword at the town, 19the soldiers who had been hiding jumped up and ran into the town. They captured it and set it on fire.
20-21When Joshua and his troops saw smoke rising from the town, they knew that the other part of their army had captured it. So they turned and attacked.
The men of Ai looked back and saw smoke rising from their town. But they could not escape, because the soldiers they had been chasing had suddenly turned and started fighting. 22-24Meanwhile, the other Israelite soldiers had come from the town and attacked the men of Ai from the rear. The Israelites captured the king of Ai and brought him to Joshua. They also chased the rest of the men of Ai into the desert and killed them.
The Israelite army went back to Ai and killed everyone there. 25-26Joshua kept his sword pointed at the town of Ai until every last one of Ai's 12,000 people was dead. 27But the Israelites took the animals and the other possessions of the people of Ai, because this was what the Lord had told Joshua to do.
28-29Joshua made sure every building in Ai was burned to the ground. He told his men to kill the king of Ai and hang his body on a tree. Then at sunset he told the Israelites to take down the body, throw it in the gateway of the town, and cover it with a big pile of rocks. Those rocks are still there, and the town itself has never been rebuilt.
A number of years ago there was a television show called The “A” Team. In the show there was always a moment where the characters at the end of the show would smile and say, “I love it when a plan comes together.” This is what is happening in chapter 8 of Joshua. God has told them exactly how they are to attack Ai. It would be an ambush and the people of God would win.
Yet one powerful theme is played throughout this chapter. Having the plan is not enough. Joshua wants to remind them that it is God that gave them the victory. The first time they went to defeat Ai they went with overconfidence and a sense of self-reliance. The result was humiliating defeat. This time, with God and a sense of humility and dependence on God’s presence and power, they are victorious.
How easily we forget. But how essential that dependence is to a life of faith. When we replace dependence on him with anything else, we are tossed to and fro by the circumstances and even the defeats. We are utterly alone.
God of grace and God of purpose, you have a plan for our lives. Each of us have been made for a particular reason and only you the Creator of the universe, only you the Maker of heaven and earth know what that purpose is. Help us to rely on you in the acknowledgement that you are the God of power and promise. Amen.